TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Amnesia, Anyone?

Do you still remember Sept. 11, 2001? That’s the day four planes were hijacked. Two were flown into the Twin Towers in New York and another into the Pentagon. The last crashed into the ground in Pennsylvania when its passengers overcame the terrorists who had planned to take out a fourth target.

The hijackers were 19 men affiliated with al-Qaeda. Do you remember that 15 of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia? Two others were from the United Arab Emirates; one each came from Egypt and Lebanon.

In its infinite wisdom, the United States military was unleashed upon … Afghanistan. You know, a country that had nothing to do with the bombings. You figure that one out because I can’t.

The Trump administration has looked with favor upon the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates. Do you think it’s because, shortly after a meeting with the Saudis and the Emirates, U.S. firms signed enormous military contracts were signed with them? Do you also suppose it could also be because lucrative and much-needed financing was suddenly made available to the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to bail his family real estate company out of substantial, pressing debt?

We still have a large troop presence in Afghanistan. We talk about the serious opioid crisis in our country; what seems even more serious is that Afghanistan is the greatest supplier of opioids. Why isn’t our country attacking the supplier-growers on their own ground, rather than only concentrating on the cure for overdoses? With all of our electronic surveillance capabilities, including the use of drones, the military could greatly diminish the drug pipeline. They are already there. Why hasn’t their mission changed?

Perhaps if we were constantly reminded that 115 people die every single day from drug overdose, we would focus more clearly on the source of the supply.

In Syria, we have troops in harm’s way. The president has said we should get out “quickly.” No sooner had he said that when Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad authorized the use of chlorine gas against his own people.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the Russians benefit if we leave or are thrown out of Syria.

As we view situations such as the one in Syria, it reminds me of the days before and during World War II as the world, including this country, stood by and did little as the Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis. If you believe we didn’t know what was taking place in Europe during those times, I have some hot air to sell you from my backyard.

We all see the same news reports of the slaughter of men, women and children in Syria. Bombs, rockets and artillery shells are not selective when it comes to death.

To bring the bad news closer to home, think about Puerto Rico and Michigan. Puerto Rico has endured months without essential infrastructure, including electricity, because for some reason our leadership can’t or won’t make use of the National Guard or active-duty military and their combat engineers to assist them. Restoration would make a wonderful peacetime practice for war. Where else could they get better on-the-job training.

More than three years have gone by, and people in Flint, Mich., still can’t drink their lead-tainted water. Engineers from the military or the Guard could come in with supplies right now, but that hasn’t happened. The government talks a lot but the talk is not matched by action.

We need thinking men and women in Congress who can get it through their heads that they represent we, the people. That is not happening now. It’s hard to argue with that fact, notwithstanding your political affiliation.

The world is in turmoil. That includes our own country. We need meaningful, considered, thoughtful discussion. Then comes the hard part: prioritizing and acting first upon our actual needs, then upon our wants.

When so many people with so much money are running the country, the regular people are shortchanged. The rich get gigantic tax cuts, while the average person gets a pittance … and often thinks that’s just great.

If the wealthy were taxed like the average citizen, and if we stopped spending on military items we don’t need (as Dwight David Eisenhower warned us so long ago), we could develop a balanced budget. Some of these problems do predate the current administration, but the worst can be laid at its feet. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — With Allies Like These …

The following is the definition of an Ally: “a country that supports and helps another country in a war.”

Saudi Arabia is considered an ally of the United States. We basically support that country in every way possible, but let’s examine their support of the United States.

(Please note that my comments are directed at an intense dislike of the government of the Kingdom of Saud … not of its people. To attack the citizens of Saudi Arabia themselves feeds into racial hatred and bigotry, and there is already more than enough of that in our country.)

Recently in the news, you may have heard of the censoring of 28 pages of our government’s final investigative report of the attacks of 9/11. The censored section appears to implicate the Saudi government in the attack

Former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan (oh, how I wish I could use the term “current North Dakota senator”!) was given access to the redacted (censored) pages and was recently interviewed on the air. While he could say nothing about the classified pages, he suggested plenty.

Former Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, who also read the classified report, has been more candid. Speaking about who financed the hijackers who killed thousands by flying airliners in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, he stated that the trail of evidence leads directly to the Saudis.

It’s amazing how much information is available online when you research the subject yourself. For example, case agents interviewed by the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Washington, D.C., and San Diego, the forward operating base for some of the Saudi hijackers, as well as detectives at the Fairfax County, Va., Police Department (who also investigated several 9/11 leads) say virtually every road led back to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, as well as the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.

Just like in the movies — only this was no movie — the authorities were prevented from following leads. The common excuse was “diplomatic immunity.”

Leaked information disclosed supposedly “incontrovertible” evidence that at least two of the hijackers who settled in San Diego received financial assistance from the Saudis.

Other leaked information referred to the redacted section of the report, including a flurry of pre-9/11 phone calls between one of the hijackers’ Saudi contacts in San Diego and the Saudi Embassy, as well as the transfer of $130,000 from then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar’s family checking account to yet another of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego.

Investigators said that instead of investigating Bandar, “our Government literally protected him” by providing personal security at the embassy and at his Vermont mansion. The task force wanted to arrest a number of embassy employees, but they complained to the U.S. attorney. As a compromise, their visas were revoked, and they were sent home.

In my world, that compromise would be spelled c-o-v-e-r u-p. Bandar should have been a key subject of the probe. The subject of diplomatic immunity needs to be thoroughly reviewed.

The more I researched this subject, the more surprises I found. Anwar al-Awlaki, the spiritual adviser to the hijackers, was detained in 2002 at JFK Airport on passport fraud charges — only to be ordered released to a “Saudi representative.” It took until 2011 for Awlaki to be brought to justice, by way of a CIA drone strike. You see, if he’s dead, he can’t talk … and he certainly is dead.

One of my sources indicates the 9/11 Commission Report that followed the congressional inquiry never cites the catch and release of Awlaki. Bandar is listed only in the footnotes.

Right now, our Senate is taking aim at arms sales to Saudi Arabia. That follows reports that the kingdom has killed civilians in Yemen … using U.S. weapons. Human Rights Watch urged stopping arms sales to the Saudis after an on-site investigation that found remnants of a GBU-31 satellite-guided bomb, which is made up of a U.S.-supplied MK-84 1-ton bomb mated to a JDAM satellite guidance kit, both supplied by (you guessed it) the United States.

Sens. Rand Paul and Chris Murphy are proposing legislation limiting the Saudis’ uses of weapons we supply; they also note the price we will pay for the Saudis’ indiscriminate bombing in Yemen. Here’s hoping they succeed. But the current White House doesn’t seem to be taking action to undo the protection racket originally set up by the former White House and its occupants.

Who was George W. Bush’s chief adviser? Oh, yes: It was that honorable Dick Cheney!

What else have our allies the Saudis been up to?

King Abdullah, who died in January 2015, forbade all forms of political dissent and protests that could harm “public order.” Among other things, his decree criminalized participating in hostilities outside the kingdom with a penalty of three to 20 years in jail. The list of of terrorist organizations include the Muslim Brotherhood, along with any atheist thought anything that calls into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion. In other words, any critical expressions or independent associations now are defined as crimes of terrorism.

Human Rights Watch has published the seven-page “World Report, Saudi Arabia Events of 2014.” Google it. You’ll read a horrible account of how our ally treats its citizens. It describes a criminal justice system that makes our worst courts look good by comparison. Considering what has been happening in our own country, that is not complimentary.

Space prohibits me from including all of the Saudi Kingdom’s human rights violations, but I must comment on women’s and girls’ rights.

Saudi has promised to abolish its total male-domination system but has done nothing at all. In 2016, women are still forbidden from obtaining a passport, marrying, traveling or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother or son. A fatwa has been issued stating women are not allowed to visit a male doctor without their male guardians. All women are still banned from driving in Saudi Arabia.

I could go on for pages about what’s terribly wrong in the human rights department in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have more money than any other nation and yet provide no troops to fight in regional wars beyond a little occasional air power. They pay for nothing. They expect the United States to carry the entire load of war from which they benefit. They fund ISIS activities. We know it, and somehow we accept it.

I hope that those senators and representatives pushing for the release of the 28 censored pages manage to get it done. When the full story is finally disclosed, perhaps we will redefine what we will expect from our so-called ally, Saudi Arabia.

With allies like the Saudis, who needs enemies? Amen.